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NIF at Conferences

Eva Wu

In the past few weeks, NIF has had the opportunity to participate in two conferences: the Canadian Conference on Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth (Feb 16-17, 2017 in London) and the Mood Walks Summit 2017 (Feb 25-26, 2017 in Toronto).

The first conference, the Canadian Conference on Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth, hosted a series of talks in the area of relationship violence and mental health challenges. For more information, please visit their conference site here.

NIF ambassador Bailey Roe was inspired by the conference’s diverse mental health exposure:

The Canadian Conference on Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth was an eye opening opportunity to look at the many facets that encompass mental health. The information that resonated with me the most was learning how your mental health as youth can influence your mental health growing up as an adult not only mentally, but physiologically. This reinforces why it’s so important to connect youth with the knowledge of mental health and create an open space to talk about it so they may understand how to develop positive mental health for themselves and each other. To experience an open and safe space to share our perspectives, experiences and hear about people’s incredible research on mental health is so fundamental and inspiring for North in Focus in order to share that knowledge and help others create an open space to learn more about mental health.

The second conference, Mood Walks Summit 2017, focused on the connections between mental health, nature and physical activity. Mood Walks is a provincial program which utilizes outdoor hiking programs to address mental health and well-being. There is a lot of research supporting this idea! If you would like to learn more about the research behind Mood Walks, check out their article on the Nurture of Nature! And for more information about the summit itself, visit the Mood Walks Summit page.

Gabrielle Foss, Co-Founder and Communications Coordinator of NIF, attended the two conferences along with NIF ambassadors Bailey Roe and Becca Cambridge. Below are a few words from Gabrielle about her experience at both conferences:

I was fortunate enough to be able to represent North in Focus at two conferences in the past month. They were excellent opportunities to learn a lot, and make connections with mental health professionals. Thank you to ambassadors Bailey and Becca for joining me!
At the Canadian Conference on Promoting Healthy Relationships for Youth in London, Dr. Vaillancourt began her keynote by reminding the audience that depression is the leading cause of disability in Canada. Clearly this is an issue that needs to be addressed in order to unlock the potential that lies within so many, unfortunately “we turn a blind eye when we don’t see a black eye”. Later in the conference, Dr. Rodger emphasized the importance of increasing mental health literacy in all community members, since there will never be sufficient formal resources. In her workshop about Inuit mental health, Dr. Morris spoke to the intense resilience and creativity that exists in Inuit populations due to the harsh environmental conditions in the North. She then outlined multiple Inuit-identified solutions to the current epidemic of mental illness, including the following: develop positive self-identity, promote healthy relationships, develop lay counselling and intervention skills, and involve all generations.
At the Mood Walks Summit in Toronto, NIF led a workshop during the pre-conference which consisted of a few of our staple workshop activities. And since the theme of the event was how getting outside benefits one’s mental wellness, the next day we presented about the importance of going off on the land in Inuit culture. Thanks to Ashley for helping us develop that presentation! Overall, the event was a blast. We had the opportunity to try our hands at graphic design, discuss the Nature Playbook, go for a skate, and participate in a Mood Walk along the waterfront. The Summit was an excellent reminder to prioritize spending time playing outdoors, and we’ll be sure to incorporate this lesson into future NIF programming.